The BP Oil Spill In The Gulf of Mexico April 20, 2010 Your full name Teacher’s Name 5th Grade
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick What happened? Hundreds of oil wells have been drilled into the ground beneath the Gulf of Mexico. At each deep-water well, a pipe carries the oil from deep in the Gulf floor up to a platform that floats on the water’s surface. Here the oil is collected and shipped to land for us to use. On April 20, a new well had just been drilled. Suddenly, some natural gas and oil accidentally escaped from the well and gushed to the surface. Then, right beneath the drilling platform, it exploded in a huge fireball. The damaged platform sank and pulled the pipe leading from the well down with it. The broken pipe leaked oil into the Gulf for more than 80 days. The leaking pipe has finally been capped, but no one is yet sure if it will hold.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick What happened? On April 20, 2010, a well was drilled beneath the Gulf of Mexico by BP . Natural gas and oil escaped from the well and caused a huge explosion. When the explosion occurred a drilling platform sank to the ocean floor pulling the pile from the well with it. The broken pile leaked oil for more than 80 days.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick Why are people so worried about the oil spill? The oil that was coming out of the ocean floor is a dark, thick, sticky liquid with a strong odor. Much of the oil is now floating to the surface and spreading, creating an oil "slick" that covers hundreds of square miles. It coats everything it touches in a layer of sticky oil. The oil also pollutes the water, and air above it, with fumes that are dangerous to breathe. Huge clouds of oil are also spreading beneath the surface, and no one is sure what kind of damage they may do to living things. Millions of gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf so far. As more and more oil leaks from the well, the slick spreads farther and farther. It has now washed up onto the coast, and into wetlands in some areas. This presents a serious threat to plants and animals that live there.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick Why are people so worried about the oil spill? When the oil floated to the surface it created a sticky slick of oil that covered hundreds of square miles. Oil pollutes the water and the the air we breathe. It washed up on the wetlands and coastlands. This is a serious threat to animals and plants that live there.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick What happens to the animals that get covered in oil? Birds get the oil on their feathers when they dive into the water for food or when they land on the surface to rest. When they try to clean their feathers with their beaks, they can accidentally swallow some of the oil. The oil also hurts their eyes and harms their lungs. People are capturing some of these birds and trying to clean them, but many of the oil-soaked birds still die. Ocean animals, such as sea turtles and dolphins, also get oil on them when they come to the surface to breathe. They can be harmed by chemicals in the oil, especially if they swallow or breathe some. Hundreds of sea turtles have died from the spill. Smaller creatures aren’t safe either. Countless larvae (young) of fish, shrimp, crabs, oysters, and turtle hatchlings, which swim in the open sea, have also been killed by the pollution, scientists believe.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick What happens to the animals that get covered in oil? Birds get oil on their feathers, and when they try to clean them they swallow some of the oil. This oil can hurt their eyes and lungs. People try to capture and clean the birds but still die. Sea turtles, dolphins, and other ocean animals were also harmed by chemicals in the oil when they swallowed or breathed some. Smaller creatures aren’t safe either. Scientists believe that countless larvae (young) of fish, shrimp, crabs, oysters, and turtle hatchlings, which swim in the open sea, have also been killed by the pollution.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick How is the oil being cleaned up? Here are four main ways:1. Chemical Dispersants. Chemicals are added to the oil to separate (disperse) it into smaller pieces. Natural microbes (small organisms such as bacteria) in the water can then break down the oil more easily. Unfortunately, these chemicals can be harmful to fish and other wildlife, and they can cause tiny drops of oil to spread more widely. Scientists have already discovered large clouds of oil drops beneath the surface of the Gulf. They fear that this oil will kill many of the tiny creatures that animals depend on for their food.2. Skimming. Boats suck up, or skim, the oil from the water surface and put it into tanks. This works only in calm waters. Plus, using dispersants can make it hard to skim oil.3. Burning. Oil is sometimes burned right off the water’s surface. The down side of this method? It can add to air pollution. 4. Separating. Not long from now, 32 large machines that can clean oil from seawater will be brought to the Gulf. They will suck in both oil and water, and separate them by spinning the mixture. The oil will be collected and stored on board a ship, and the clean water will be pumped back into the Gulf. The designers say the water that goes back into the sea will be almost completely free of oil. These 32 machines will be able to clean up to 6 million gallons of water each day. That sounds like a lot, but during those same 24 hours, many more times that much water will have been contaminated by new oil leaking from the well. So, no one really knows how much these machines will be able to help the clean-up.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick How is the oil being cleaned up? • Chemical Dispersants • Chemicals are added to the oil to break it down. These chemicals are harmful to the fish and wildlife. • Skimming • Skimming only works in calm waters. • Burning • This burning of the oil causes air pollution. • Separating • Machines are used to separate the oil from the water by spinning the mixture.
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick Why couldn’t the oil spill be stopped? There's a giant shut-off valve on the oil well, called a “blowout preventer.” It was designed to cut off the flow of oil in case of an accident like this. But for some reason, it didn’t work. (No one is sure exactly why yet.) Workers tried to use robots to repair the valve, but that didn't work either. Since then, workers have tried other ways of stopping or slowing the leak. Finally, on July 15, they managed to put a huge cap on the pipe sticking up from the well. That has stopped the leak, but no one is sure how long the cap will hold. Meanwhile, workers are drilling two more oil wells (called relief wells) to try to cut off the oil supply to the capped well. If they succeed, they finally will have "killed" the well and stopped the leak for good. But it will probably take until sometime in August for the first relief well to reach the capped well.• Cap and Collect. Workers tried to cover the main leak in the pipe a mile deep in the Gulf with a huge dome. They hoped that it would trap the oil so it could be collected and hauled to shore in ships. That dome became clogged with ice. So workers then put a smaller one in place. This dome, or cap, trapped some oil, but most was still leaking into the sea. BP has now replaced this cap with a tighter one that, we all hope, will capture most or all of the leaking oil.• Suck It Up. Workers have placed a pipe into the side of the broken blowout preventer. This pipe is collecting oil and natural gas, and carrying them to the surface. There, the gas is being burnt away, and the oil is being taken to shore. Soon workers will add more pipes to the blowout preventer to try to capture still more oil.• Cut It Off. Workers are drilling two more wells (called relief wells) to try to cut off the oil supply to the leaking well. But it will take until at least the end of July for the first relief well to reach the leaking well. • Why couldn't the oil leak be stopped quickly?
National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick Why couldn’t the oil spill be stopped? • The “blow preventer” did not act as a shut-off value. Workers tried to repair the valve. • On July 15, they managed to put a huge cap on the pipe sticking up from the well. That has stopped the leak, but no one is sure how long the cap will hold. • Cap and Collect • A huge dome was used to cover the leak. The dome was clogged with ice. • Suck It Up • A pipe was beside the broken “blow preventer” to collect gas. The gas would then be carried to the surface and be burned away. • Cut It Off • Workers tried to cut off the oil supply by drilling two more relief wells.
Do you have an opinion? The BP Gulf Oil Spill Blog
The BP Gulf Oil Spill Blog Environmental Disaster Cleanup crews are working around the clock to contain and clean up a large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill has created an oil slick that is threatening wildlife in the Gulf and surrounding wetlands. What have you learned about the spill, the causes, and the clean up. How will this effect you in the future? Type your blog/response here